Réserve faunique de Matane
Stories of trout, salmon, and black bears
In collaboration with Émile David, fishing enthusiast.
Réserve faunique de Matane is renowned for many things. I’m a hunter, so its deer have left the biggest mark in my imagination over the years. For many cross-country skiing and snowshoeing fanatics, the fabulous Chic-Chocs mountain range have proven an incomparable attraction. All sorts of hikers also criss-cross the large valleys of the wildlife reserve somewhere along the 650 km International Appalachian Trail. There are so many beautiful things to contemplate that we sometimes forget that the reserve is named after the waterway running through it: a prolific salmon river.
Managed by the Société de gestion de la rivière Matane (the Rivière Matane management corporation, or Sogerm), Rivière Matane has its source in Lac Matane, at the heart of the wildlife reserve, and ends in downtown Matane, after 80 km of fishing holes and rapids that are perfect places for catching plump Atlantic salmon. The last approved fishing hole of the river is in front of Sépaq’s Rivière-Matane #3 cabin, where I had the opportunity to stay last July with the renowned fly angler Alexis Pageau and a few close friends.
I had understood, based on the cabin’s name, that we would be quite close to the salmon river. But I wouldn't have bet that I could start casting my line from the front lawn. As soon as we arrived, we noticed to what extent Rivière-Matane cabins are strategically positioned for salmon fishing. Cabin #3 is only a few metres away from fishing hole #79 “La truite.” Cabin #2 is at fishing hole #78 “La cage,” by far our favourite of sector 8, for which we had day passes. These accommodation units are also perfectly positioned for fishing in the non-quota sector of the river, especially at very popular fishing hole #57 “La Cap Seize” where you can almost always spot salmon.
At the crack of dawn, a cursory exploration of the sector led us to fishing hole #78 where we noticed a small group of salmon immobilized in the middle of the current. The fishing hole is really big, so several members of our group could try their luck at the same time. Alexis was the first to experience action when a salmon leapt for his dry fly, a moment he would often bring up during the rest of the day. Finally, Juliette would be first to land a fish. Her pole shook vigorously, but not enough to indicate a large salmon on the hook. We quickly noted that she had a nice brook trout at the end of her line. After a few hours of fruitless fishing, we made our way to the non-quota sector and tried our luck with the salmon of “Cap-Seize” to end the day.
Back to trout
Even though our day of salmon fishing wasn’t boring in the least, we decided for the second day to do some brook trout fishing on a lake open for day fishing in the wildlife reserve. Upon arrival on site in the morning, we came across a radiantly happy angler couple leaving with their catch limit. Once our incredulity subsided, we hit the lake with a certain dose of swagger. The fish actually proved to be cooperative, and we each reeled in an enviable mess of nice brook trout. Near the end of the afternoon, we left the lake and headed toward the meeting point for the last activity of the stay: black bear watching.
Once we arrived at Lac Matane, we met Derek, the reserve’s animal keeper-guide, who explained the procedure to follow. The activity has been offered at the reserve for several years now and they’ve got it down pat. Once on site, we gathered in a shelter while the guide placed the bait. We then waited for several minutes in utter silence. Derek began explaining the social behaviour of bears when just as suddenly as briefly, a massive black ball appeared at the bottom of one of the clear lines where the bait is placed. A total and feverish silence engulfed the shelter. It took a few more minutes before a good-sized bear finally appeared, lumbering toward one of the bait sites. We all had the opportunity to observe and snap photos of the beast. Once the animal seemed secure, our guide continued to provide explanations. A true interactive course as only nature can offer. On the way back, we came across a moose calf in the middle of the road. We can say that the Réserve faunique de Matane experience was indeed complete.
For its scenery alone, Réserve faunique de Matane is a mind-blowing destination, no matter the season. For fishing enthusiasts, Rivière-Matane cabins are jewels at the heart of the action.